What is the IKEv2/IPsec Protocol? All You Need to Know

Ruheni Mathenge Last updated: March 18, 2023 Read time: 9 minutes Disclosure

IKEv2 (often implemented as IKEv2/IPSec in VPNs) is a communication protocol that establishes Security Association (SA) in IPSec.

IKEv2/IPSec protocol – Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) and IPSec suite- is among the top-notch tunneling protocols most VPN services employ for providing the best security features, fast speed, and stable connection to the user. It controls request and response actions via certain key exchange algorithms and establishes Security Association (SA) between the device and the VPN server. Subsequently, it encrypts the data traffic between the two entities in a network. In this honest guide, we have covered everything about IKEv2/IPSec protocol that you should know.

Today, VPNs no more remain a strange technology. VPNs now have multiple use cases, becoming an essential privacy tool for everyone. Therefore, it’s vital to know about the various VPN connection protocols to make the best of this tool. One of the most common protocols you’ll see in most VPN services is the IKEv2 protocol. (You may also frequently find it as “IKEv2/IPSec” protocol.)

This article elaborates on the IKEv2/IPSec protocol, how it works, comparison with other protocols, and much more. 

IKEv2/IPSec protocol: The definition

Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) is a popular tunneling protocol that controls request and response actions. In addition, it establishes and handles the Security Association (SA) attribute to protect the communication between two entities

The first version, Internet Key Exchange (IKE), was introduced in 1998 as IKE version 1 (IKEv1). It was later upgraded to Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) in 2005.

IKEv2 is popular because it is faster, secure, stable, has low CPU usage, and quick reconnection. Also, it is a bit lightweight, so it is suitable for mobile devices, especially iOS. 

Usually, IKEv2 is paired with the authentication suite IPSec, a joint project between Microsoft and Cisco to form IKEv2/IPSec protocol. This combination is more secure and uses fewer resources to protect connections. 

How does IKEv2/IPSec work?

Since IKEv2 frequently works when coupled with IPSec, the steps outlined below define how the two protocols work together.

First, the protocol uses a Diffie-Hellman (DH) key exchange algorithm to protect communication between the VPN server and your device.

Then, IKEv2 uses the secure communication channel to create a security association (SA). It ensures that your device and the server communicate with similar encryption keys and algorithms.

After creating the security association, IPSec establishes a secure tunnel to route traffic from your device to the server and vice versa. 

IKEv2 advantages

In the upgraded form (IKEv2), the IKE protocol provides tremendous benefits for users to enjoy a seamless internet experience most safely.

Below are some noteworthy benefits of this protocol that elaborate on why IKEv2 is popular among VPN services.

Robust security 

The protocol offers advanced security and even supports other encryption ciphers for maximum protection. So, it is suitable for activities that require strong security, such as downloading torrents and accessing the dark web

Blazing speed 

A protocol with massive security will likely have slow speeds, but not IKEv2/IPSec. The protocol offers solid security features and still maintains excellent speed. Hence, it will encrypt your data and efficiently perform data-intensive tasks such as gaming, torrenting, or streaming content.